“Now, back with my experiment,” O explains. “I didn’t consider it a worthy test, as upon entering the White Room, I suspected that me and whomever I’m gripping might be forcibly removed from each other, and it could- perhaps this is ridiculous, but this house has proven to be irreconcilably odd- rip one of our fingers, or even arms, off. So, I shied away from it. Now, however, I conject that that will not be the result. And even if it is, now we’ve learned that we’re impervious to harm.”
The two of them face the door.
“I guess we’ll know if it worked if the envelope in the back has your name on it,” M faces O.
“Or if we’re in the same room, for that matter. Ready, M?”
O grips his hand. He opens the door; all they can see is a bright, blurry white light. He steps inside, M following. He can still feel his hand. For a moment, it feels as if there is a heavy push, but the two of them grasp each other tightly. When it secedes, M finds himself in a room nearly identical to the room in which he awoke initially. The only difference is that the envelope on the back has an “O” on it.
“Then… it was successful…” O studies the room.
He looks at O’s clock. His violet dash is halfway between 12 and 1, and his red dash is just before the 6, indicating roughly 12:30. However, it is not a simple red dash. There is a trail of a light red color extending beyond the dash, all the way up to the 12.
“O…” he faces him. “Your dash… is different than mine. It has a trail.”
“Mine is just a red dash. Yours has a long trail beside it. I wonder what that means.”
“Perhaps it means my death was longer. Beginning at 12:28 and ending at 1:01. You said you figure you were shot between the eyes? Well, then that is why yours is such a small dash. You died instantly.”
The thought disturbs him.
“Anyhow, we’ve found our results. Ready to leave?”
M is slightly tempted to stick around and experiment with O’s clock, but knowing that the feelings he’ll feel are his personal business, he agrees to leave. He wishes he could see O’s reflection in the mirror, or even the mysterious pictures in his envelope. But he didn’t offer that information to him, and he doesn’t ask.
When they return, D asks, “Did it work?”
“It did,” O nods.
“Wild…” C whispers.
The seven of them spend a little more time together, then when ten o’clock nears, the group decides to go to sleep. M journeys into his room, which is on the left of V’s room, and across from D’s. He looks around and inspects it: it’s quaint, with a small nightstand beside the single bed, a window at the end of the room, a desk and a chair beside the window, and a bathroom on his left upon entering. He opens the window, studying the massive, gleaming, milky yellow moon in the air, glistening above the forest off into the distance.
“What a strange thing that’s happened to me…” he whispers. “And… I’m not… tired. Maybe I… could investigate,” he considers it.
He opens his bedroom door and walks next door, finding V’s door. He knocks softly, hoping he won’t wake him if he’s asleep.
“M?” he slowly opens the door. “Can’t sleep, man?”
“Nope,” M replies. “I’m not even slightly tired.”
“Neither am I,” he shrugs. “That reminds me,” he leans in the doorway, “you and I haven’t grabbed knives yet. Want to do that now?”
V exits, shutting the door behind him. They walk down the dark hall, which is now lit by candles flickering lethargically on the wall. M noticed the unlit candles earlier; they added to the mysteriousness of the house. However, he did not imagine they would actually be used to illuminate the halls at night.
When they get to the cafeteria, food most people would associate with late night snacks is present. There are hot sandwiches, hamburgers, chocolate, and other things one craves later on at night.
“Can’t get fatter,” V walks over to a tray of French fries, scooping them into his hands and eating them. “It’s pretty cool. Guess you don’t gain calories when you’re dead.”
M chuckles. He hands him a fry. It tastes far better than he figured it would.
When he makes it inside the kitchen, he walks over to a cutting board, where several kitchen knives rest. He sees a long, thin boning knife, a thick butcher knife, a gleaming standard chopper, a razor-sharp paring knife, and a utility blade.
“Choose your Pokémon,” V extends his arm dully.
“I’ll grab this one,” M selects the chopping knife.
“Cool,” he replies, “then I’ll take the paring knife.”
Both of their knives on their person, M scratches his head, “We should probably try to find a safe way to carry these. Just holding them all the time will get old, and we obviously can’t just stick them in our pockets. Plus, carrying them everywhere makes us look like serial killers.”
“C’s pretty artsy. She’ll make us a sheathe if we ask. We’ll tell her tomorrow.”
“You know, C’s awesome,” M chuckles. “She’s so sweet and considerate.”
“I agree,” V nods. “Honestly, I like everyone here,” the two of them exit the kitchen, V grabbing one more handful of fries as he passes the tray. He hands M a fry and stuffs the rest in his mouth. Upon swallowing, he continues, “J’s awesome: friendly, easy to talk to. A guide, to all of us. C’s pretty much the same. O’s nice; a little shy, but he really thinks about the group as a whole. D’s a little blunt, but she’s friendly when you get to know her. A’s standoffish, but even she’s cool sometimes. I mean, that M kid’s a little b***h, but everybody else is cool,” he smirks at M as they laugh. “Heard that a*****e pushes people into swimming pools for no damn reason. Like, right when they meet, so they don’t even know each other, and it’s weird.”
“V,” he laughs jovially, “I’m sorry about that.”
“What the hell was that, man?” he grins, the two of them walking through the candlelit hall.
“I just… I don’t know. I guess I wanted to see how you’d react. Everything seemed kind of… fake. Artificial, or something. I knew that should invoke a response. It did,” he chuckles dryly at him.
“Hell yeah it did.” When they make it back to V’s room, he opens his door, leaning on it and holding it open for him. “Well, welcome to el Casa la V, or whatever. I didn’t take Spanish in high school. I think.”
The two of them step inside. His room looks exactly like M’s. M sits down on his bed, and he sits down at his desk, rolling around in the chair and facing M as he puts one of his legs across his knee.
“So, what’s on your mind, M. I’ve been here longer to figure things out, so if you’re confused about anything, ask.”
“I was actually curious… do you mind if we try going through your White Room? I want to see what’s in your envelope, if that’s not prying. We can go into mine after if you want. I just want to see if we have similar stuff present in them.”
V leans against the chair, mulling it over. “Okay, M. Sure. But we’re checking yours after,” he winks.
“If you don’t mind, can we take C, too? I’d feel safer in a slightly larger group.”
“First you want to look at my personal stuff, and now you want someone else to see it too?” he jokes. “Nah, it’s fine, sure. C will make things a lot less… ominous.”
The two of them journey out of his room and into the hall, knocking on C’s door. She quietly opens it, rubbing her eyes. She’s in a pink night gown.
“V? M? Is there a problem?” she glances at the knives.
“M wants to see my White Room. Figured it’d be less creepy if you came along.”
“Why do you want to do that, M?”
“I want to see if it’s similar to mine. I mean, any clues we could get aren’t going to hurt.”
She nods. “Okay. Um, you might want to leave the knives outside though. Remember that push you mentioned? I wouldn’t want to get cut on the way in, even if it does heal fast.”
“Understandable,” V nods. “Actually, I was gonna’ ask, do you think you could make us sheathes for these?”
“Sure,” she smiled. “Tomorrow morning, definitely.”
When the three of them get to the White Room, V grabs M’s hand, and M grabs C’s. He opens the door, and they trudge through. When M and C begin feeling the mighty push, C gasps, but M assures, “It’s all right! Hold on!”
When they make it past the push, they find themselves in V’s room. He looks around with an unreadable expression.
“So… these are the pictures,” he walks over to them.
He slides three out of the envelope. The first is a picture of a tall, gleaming construction site. He hands it to M, then to C.
“Looks like something you would climb…” C notes.
“More than likely,” he agrees. “When I look at it… I get this sense of familiarity, kind of. Like, I know that place… Like I’ve probably been there a hundred times before, but I just can’t remember. Anyway,” he grabs the next photo, “this one beats me. Just a shoe.”
In the picture is an old black sneaker. M analyzes it for a while, discovering nothing.
“The last picture is of some cop,” he hands them the polaroid, a photo of a stern police officer in uniform. “That’s it,” he shrugs.
“Weird…” M notes.
“My clock is at 6:00ish,” he points at the face of the clock, the violet dash on the 6, and the red dash on the 12. “I guess I died in the afternoon. I don’t know how the cop ties in. I have no idea what the shoe’s about. Anyway… now the creepy part,” he walks over to the lamp. The three stand before the mirror. “I wonder if your wounds will show in this mirror.”
He flicks the lamp string. M never noticed before, but the bulb underneath the lampshade is black. It unnerves him to see it. A violet blob of light escapes the bulb, flowing around paranormally and unnaturally, and in the mirror, M and C look the same.
V, however, looks disturbing. He’s on the ground, both his legs gnarled and smashed. Bones are extending from both of them, mangled and crunched, and his wrists look broken as well. He stares at it a moment longer, when he can’t take it anymore and flicks the switch. The light s***s back into the bulb and his reflection is the same.
C is wide-eyed, hardly able to breathe. M feels sick to his stomach.
“Weird, right? I can’t imagine looking down and seeing my legs like that. Not at all. Awful to think about.”
“V…” M faces him. “If… if you don’t mind me asking…”
“You want me to mess with the clock? Hell, I’ll try it. O would. Let’s see if we all feel it, or if only I do.”
He walks over to the clock. C is terrified. She grips M’s hand. He holds onto her soft fingers as she whispers, “M… I don’t like this…”
“You can leave, C…” he smiles at her. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to stay.”
“I… I’ll stay… but if I grab onto you… please don’t push me off…”
“Of course, I won’t…” he assures her.
“Ready?” V’s finger hovers over the black button.
He presses it. He moves the violet hand onto the 6, and the minute hand to five minutes before the red dash on the 12. A sudden feeling overtakes the room; M feels as if he’s literally bathing in emotion, as if it’s tangible. He feels immense excitement, and at the same time, all-consuming peace.
“I bet… I bet that’s how I felt, on this building… Totally excited from being so high up… but peaceful too. Like, it’s my haven, or something.”
As the minutes pass, C begins to clasp M’s hand. Now, another emotion is added to the feeling: worry. They feel an eerie, anxious dread; it’s omnipotent and omnipresent. Every space of the room is drowning in the feeling, and there is no way to escape it.
The minute hand reaches the red dash.
The most shocking, terrible, mortifying feeling bombards their chests. Then it’s silenced two seconds later.
“I’m starting to wonder… if maybe, the pictures we have in our envelopes are where we died. And perhaps the person in our picture… killed us? I’m wondering if the items we have are a sort of motive, or if they’re in tandem with why we died. Maybe because your shoes lost grip and you fell running from a cop who caught you climbing. And maybe… I failed school and couldn’t play on the team, and someone counting on me, like the baseball player in my picture, got upset and overreacted. Severely. Oh, yeah; forgot to mention that. I had a picture of a baseball stadium, some baseball player, and a crappy report card in my envelope.”
“You know… that makes sense,” V replies. “Maybe… that feeling of worry… at the three-minute mark… Maybe I see something strange… the cop pulling up, or his flashlight, or something. Yeah, and I’m running, and my grip s***s… and I fall. That makes a lot of sense. And, now that you mention your room… let’s check it out.”
The three exit V’s room. To M’s surprise, C isn’t scared, but wants to visit his room. When inside, he shows them the pictures.
“Ashton…? Your name is M. I mean, I figure it starts with ‘M’. I don’t think this is your report card.”
“I guess you’re right. I forgot about that. Wait… what if Ashton’s the boy in the photo? And he didn’t make the baseball team because of his grades? And I took his place and he was jealous?”
“That makes sense.”
“M… what do you look like in your mirror? If… you don’t mind sharing.”
He stares into the mirror, flicking the chain. As the paranormal lights decorate the room, he stares into his reflection, cringing at the massive gash on his face, right between his eyes. He stares into his crushed right eye.
“Yo… M…” V nudges him. “That… that’s not a bullet hole. It looks like you got hit with something. Your eye is crushed, and that looks more like your skull is cracked than an entry wound. I don’t think that’s a bullet hole.”
“Dude… What if it was a thrown baseball? I know how absolutely absurd that sounds, but… it took place in a stadium, at least I think. Maybe it was done with a bat. Either way, I think it involved baseball equipment. Damn. I want to feel my emotions before my death. I want to see how quick it was. If I was afraid. Then I might know more about the approach; was I confronted? Did I simply turn around and get smashed? I’m curious.”
“Then let’s do it,” V nods. “We’ll go through it with you.”
“Mm-hm,” C nods, meeting his eyes sisterly.
“Thanks, guys…” he smiles.
He walks over to the clock. He’s horrified of the feeling he knows is coming. He places the minute hand five minutes before the red mark, and the hour hand on the purple dash. A vivid, wild excitement overtakes them. It’s far more exciting than V’s clock vision; this feels paramount.
“This is grandeur…” C whispers. “It’s a tied game… the bottom of the ninth… three balls, two strikes, and you’re up to bat, M… You decide the fate of the game…”
“Ashton is watching… the orange-haired boy…” V’s eyes are shut. “He doesn’t want to lose, but if you hit a homerun, you’ll win the game. And he lost his spot to you.”
M waits. Vivid flashes of excitement, between disappointed and anxious in-betweens, follow.
“Foul balls…” C whispers.
The hand is just about to touch the mark. The excitement inclines after the short disappointment, and then, a minute burst of astonishment appears, followed by a dismounting blow of horror. The absolute terror is resounding for a millisecond, and then it’s gone.
“He can’t take it anymore. He walks up behind you with a bat and hits you. In the face.” V stares into M’s eyes.
M was silent for a moment. He didn’t know what he thought of the way it felt.
“Maybe. But it looks like I was hit in the front.”
“Hmm…” V scratches his chin.
“C… We don’t have to go into your room or make you feel or watch anything… Just tell me… What were your pictures?”
“I had three pictures as well. The first was of a car. The car seems very familiar; the same way the two of you perceive the construction site and the baseball player. The next picture is of a man. He’s holding a beer bottle. He’s wearing a red shirt and has an expensive watch on his wrist. The final picture… is of a lake.”
“Maybe you were hit by a drunk driver… You were knocked off the road into a lake, C. And you drowned. It’s almost undoubtable. One of our images is the place our deaths happened. The person in our pictures is our killer. And the last image ties into our murder, like you in your car, and V’s shoes failing him. I’m not exactly sure how the report card ties in but I’m sure of it: that’s how it works. So, we know we’re dead. And we know we have an insight of how. But people die all the time. Thousands of people, every day. So, what about the seven of us is special enough that we ended up here?”
“You know… we should talk with the others about their stories tomorrow,” V admits. “If we’re going to be definite about anything, we need all the evidence we can get.”
“What if A doesn’t want to share?” C sighs.
“Eh,” V shrugs, “six out of seven is good enough for me. But right now, we’re not even half the group. Not a lot of certainty. Actually… you know, this is a pretty pressing matter… Want to wake them up right now?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t…” C scratches her forearm awkwardly.
“Let’s do it. I want to wake up A.”
“We may as well wake them all,” V shrugs. “Better all their stories. And A might not even talk.”
“I know. I just mean I want to be the one to wake her specifically.”
V raises an eyebrow. “All right, man. You wake up A. Let’s get going,” V grabs M’s hand, and C grabs his. They exit the White Room. When C, M, and V get downstairs, V goes over to J’s room, C to D’s, and M to A’s.
“Gotta’ get her side of the story…” M thinks. “So I’ll have to make this irresistible to her. I’ll make her so confused, she can’t possibly stay in there.” He starts to chuckle. “And… God, I want to see where this goes. Wake up, b***h! You better give me my money!” he lowers his voice in an attempt to sound like a disgruntled thug.
C runs over to him, screaming, “M?! What are you doing?”
V whirls around. “You might want to grab your knife!” he gasps.
J bursts into shocked laughter as he steps out of his room. D is staring in disgust. O wanders into the hall, scratching his head.
M waits carefully. There is no reply.
“I was totally kidding! Just wanted to lighten the mood… Seriously though, A. We found what looks like a really important discovery and we want you in the loop. Please?”
There is still no reply.
“Dammit… I was sure that was weird enough to draw her out.”
“I think you came on too strong, dipshit,” D glares at you.
“What the hell are you six doing?” a voice appears from the stairway, and they turn and see A standing in the candlelight at the end of the hall.
“Hey! We need to talk.”
“Gonna’ cuss her out?” D shakes her head as A walks down the hall toward the six.
“What’s going on?” A inquires.
“We’re comparing our stories, A…” V faces her. “You know… how we died. C, M, and I are noticing a pattern. M pointed out that each envelope has three pictures: one of a person, one of a place, and one of a thing. The person seems to be our killer, the place where it happened, and the thing is the item responsible for doing it. But that only lines up with three stories. We want your stories, too, to see if we’re onto something.”
“Interesting,” O nods. “Great work. My stories line up with that conclusion… mostly. In my pictures, the first is of a teenage male. He looks frustrated. The second picture is of a teenage girl. She looks distraught. The final picture is of, what looks like, a public restroom.”
“Completely honestly… I have no idea what to make of that…” M sighs. “That doesn’t line up with the person/place/thing format. O, what did you look like in your mirror again?”
“I was bleeding from what looked like gunshots in my chest and shoulder.”
“And mine,” J meets M’s eyes, “don’t really line up exactly either. There are only three pictures too, but one’s of a man, one’s of a bottle of whiskey, and the last is of a woman. The man looks angry… vicious, cruel… The woman looks terrified.”
“Mine was the same as yours,” D faces V and M. “Person, place, thing. Living room, injection needle, boy.”
“A… do you mind… sharing…?”
A sits still. She seems to be considering it.
“You realize your cooperation could be the difference between us figuring out what the hell’s going on and how we can possibly get out of here? I get that you’re not a social butterfly, and that this is obviously a personal matter. But if we’re gonna’ ever figure this out, we need you, and everyone, to cooperate.”
She giggles. “You didn’t let me finish, M. I do mind sharing. Vocally. However… if you follow me into my room… I’ll let it do the talking. Just you though, M.”
V shoots you a confused look. M’s shocked, but shrugs. He grins at V. “Hey, she can’t kill me.” He returns his gaze to A and concedes, “I really appreciate it.”
She nods. They walk up the stairs, the group following. When they get to the White Room, she opens the door. She sticks her hand out.
M takes her hand. He feels butterflies as they lock fingers. He’s shocked she’s holding his hand so tightly. When they step inside, he feels the push, but she holds onto him firmly. Once through, he sees her envelope on the other side of the room, labeled “A” in black ink. She faces him.
“This is shocking… I honestly never thought you’d cooperate. Is there any reason you wanted to single me out?”
“Yeah. I singled you out, M, because… of this,” she walks over to him. He’s terrified as she’s inches from his face, her large green eyes glinting in curiosity as they lock with his smooth russet.
“A…?” he blushes.
She steps back. “That’s why.”
He was slightly annoyed.
“What the heck was that? Predictable?”
She smiles at him. “Predictable was the wrong choice of words. Entirely the wrong choice of words, actually. You’re pretty unpredictable. The way you threw V into the pool without warning. Or how you decided to wake me up.”
“You… heard that?” he asks awkwardly.
“That might give some people the inclination not to trust you. But I see it as the opposite. You’re sincere. That’s what I meant. So sincere, you act entirely on your own will, hiding nothing. Don’t get offended. No offense to J, or C, or V, or any of them- but they’re hard to trust. To me, anyway. You, however… are too much of an open book to confuse me,” she faces him with an unreadable expression.
“I guess that makes sense. Well… thanks. To be honest, it’s remarkable watching you giggle. I never imagined you would. Anyway… let’s see those pictures.”
“Remarkable watching me giggle?” she doesn’t let him change the subject.
“You’re just… so… You look unhappy, most of the time. Gloomy. But right now, you seem so… ironically… alive.”
That makes her laugh. She looks at him in interest. “Thanks, M. Now, the pictures.”
She slides them out of the envelope. The first is a picture of uneven bars. The second picture displays an inhaler. The third displays a leotard, sprawled out on the ground.
“Yours is the only set without a picture of a person… It seems like you had an asthma attack doing your uneven bars routine. What do you look like in the mirror?”
She looks at him mysteriously. She leads him to the mirror, flicking on the lamp. In lieu of the abnormal lights, he finds her almost the same, except her lungs are visible in her chest. They’re blackish blue. She stares at the image, shuddering.
“Yeah… definitely seems like an asthma attack or something.”
“I believe you’re right. I don’t recall having asthma, though. Would I really pursue gymnastics as a career if I had asthma?”
“You seem like a very determined person. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past you.”
She looks at him amusedly. “Maybe.”
Now she faces the clock. She moves the hour hand into place, and the minute hand ten minutes behind the red mark, at 2:39. She presses the black button. The two of them stand side-by-side as they begin to sense a high level of excitement. It’s not as palpable as M’s clock vision, but is more exciting than V’s. As they mire in the excitement, she faces him.
“A performance. Some type of important practice, maybe.”
“Or a contest,” he nods.
At around the three-minute mark, they feel anxiety, and intense determination. The feeling of fear is only slight, like the creeping anxiety of waiting in line to ride a roller-coaster. When it gets to the red mark, however, everything changes. The fear turns quite vibrant. Her mark has a long trail, extending for five minutes on the clock. Now they begin to feel absolute terror and regret swallowing them, mixed with anger and confusion. She looks appalled as she stands before the clock, waiting for the hand to extend past the mark’s trail. When it finally does, the last thing they are able to process is horrible regret.
M stares into her eyes.
“Regret… That probably solves it. You regretted doing gymnastics with asthma. I think.”
She slowly nods. “Yes… I need sleep now…”
She walks over to the doorway. She holds his hand, and they exit the room together. When they reemerge, V is waiting impatiently, J leaning against the wall talking to D. O is polishing his glasses with a small cloth, and C is staring at the portal, seemingly in baited breath.
“Is everything all right?” she asks immediately, noticing A’s expression of discomfort.
“Fine. I need sleep. Goodnight to you all,” she departs.
He feels the urge to say something to her, to make a move as she leaves. At the same time, V’s approaching him, ready for an answer. The others are waiting for a response too.
“Tell them if you like,” A faces him. “I just didn’t want to say it. Or feel it, amongst everybody.”
“What happened?” V asks. “Does it line up?”
“Asthma attack. There wasn’t a person in her pictures though, strangely enough. I’m not sure why.”
A disappears down the stairs.
“This is the conclusion I’ve reached,” O gathers everyone’s attention. “Perhaps the pictures are all not uniform in a person/place/thing-format. But they all have a pattern: circumstance, problem, catalyst. That is present in each picture. Perhaps I’m stepping out on a limb here… but I’m going to theorize one of our deaths. I’ll start with mine. There is a male. The girl in the picture aggravated him… perhaps for the final time. He looks to be a troubled male; he has an angered look on his face, a scar on his lip, and dresses like a delinquent. The time of my death is at 12:28. Assuming this is 12:28 PM, this is during school hours. Now, the girl looks quite uninterested, annoyed even. Perhaps he is a social outcast, and has been fawning over this girl for quite some time. When she finds out, she’s horrified, and disgusted. He snaps. He brings a gun to school. After the initial gunshots, I am hiding in a bathroom. When he enters, he shoots me in the chest and shoulder. It takes me close to thirty minutes to bleed to death. The male is responsible for the circumstance. The female is the catalyst that caused the male to act. The problem- or what’s responsible for my death- is the gun.”
“That’s horrifying… but yeah, sounds plausible. Maybe D bought bad drugs…?”
“What are you saying?” she shoots M an angry look.
“D…” J solaces. “Your habitat is full of alcohol.”
She stares at J in anger. Slowly, her gaze falls to the floor.
“I… I’m dating that boy… in the picture… maybe. He’s my boyfriend… and he makes me so mad, or he cheats on me, or something… and I buy a fix… heroine… and I overdose…” she whispers in disgust. “On the couch in my living room… Doesn’t… sound out of character, for me…”
“Sorry… I didn’t mean to offend you…” M sighs. “But yeah. That’s what I thought. So we have an idea how I died, D, A, O, C, and V… J, reexplain yours?”
“Wait…” C speaks up. “There’s… a problem with mine. I couldn’t drive. I know I couldn’t. I don’t remember much, but I remember that. I think… the man in the picture… is my father. He has blonde hair and blue eyes… like me. And he looks… so familiar. So, very familiar. Not a stranger. I think… maybe he was drunk driving… with me in the car.”
“Plausible…” O nods. “The lake was the circumstance, the alcohol was the catalyst, and the man was the problem.”
“Holy crap… that’s terrible. So he killed you both…”
“I… imagine…” she whimpers.
She looks deeply troubled. M can’t resist, and walks over to her, hugging her tightly.
“We’ll figure this out. I promise.”
She smiles slightly. “Thank you, M…” she whispers.
“All right.” J speaks up. “My story. I’ll be real with ya’ll; ain’t put the details together that well. O? You got a plan? You’re pretty good with this stuff.”
“I would like to see the pictures,” he faces J.
J nods. J takes O’s hand and leads him into the White Room. Moments later, they reemerge.
“I think I have it,” O faces them all. “The man in the picture? J’s father. The woman? His mother. I draw this conclusion because they both look like J. Both seem to be related to him, and are far older than him, clearly. Now, I venture that the man- the cruel looking man- is a drunkard. And the woman, J’s mother, is terrified of him. One time, while he is… abusing her… J stands up to it. To be pummeled to death.”
“So we know how we all die… and we know that we did all die,” M summates. “Now, one question remains: why are we here? What makes us special? Our deaths don’t seem to have anything necessarily in common. We’re all different ages, we all died at different times… What’s the link? Why us?”
The group looks around confusedly. Then O meets M’s eyes. “You’re sure we died… completely sure… but I, however, am not. What if… we are not dead. After all… what kind of religion predicted this place? Osmocate Manor… That does not sound like anything written in any good book. I… I sometimes wonder… if we are all… asleep.”
“Asleep?” V asks.
“In a trance of some sort,” O faces them all. “Perhaps… we’re all remembering this. But it’s all a suggested memory. I don’t know, but nothing quite indicates that we are dead. Besides our immortality, anyway, albeit that lines up with my theory of this all being a dream of some kind as well.”
“This is too much…” C sighs, rubbing her head.
“I just want to get out of here…” D mutters.
“Well, us sitting here BS’ing isn’t going to get us anywhere most likely. Can we see the Hall of Voices?” M asks.
The group exchanges glances.
“Count me out,” D replies.
“I… can’t go there again,” C confesses.
“Same here, man…” J admits. “Too much for me.”
“M…” V looks at him disappointedly. “I… I don’t know what to say, man… That place… I… you don’t want to be there. You don’t…”
“I am willing to go there,” O states. “Not now, though. Tomorrow, when I’ve had a good night’s rest. Is that sufficient, M?”
“Okay. Tomorrow it is.”
The group slowly disbands. Finally, M says goodnight to V. When he finds his mattress, he’s much more tired than before. He passes out on the bed, finding sleep rather easily.